On Wednesday March 9, eight long months after assuming the role of Principal, I finally had the opportunity to stand up in person at the lectern in the TKS Auditorium and say, “Welcome back to The Knox School.” The occasion was the VCE Information evening, although a vital session for families with students in Years 11 or 12, it is not ordinarily a highlight on any social calendar. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was.
Following two years of ongoing disruptions to our schedule of events, months of Home Campus learning and online events, it was a genuine pleasure to see actual 3D faces and most importantly, smiles. Undoubtedly, at times we were uncertain as to what etiquette was required: do we still shake hands, or do we now nudge elbows? Is a fist pump appropriate? I am not quite sure anyone really knows anymore; however, what was beyond question, was the joy at being together – even if we were discussing the ATAR!
Over the last two years, our Home Campus learning at TKS has proven that we can find innovative and creative ways to connect with each other. At times, we have recognised that online options can have multiple benefits and can in fact be preferable on occasion, offering enhanced flexibility and allowing us to connect with colleagues and organisations all over the world from the comfort of our couch. We have certainly come to understand that our model can be changed and that we can adapt as individuals and communities.
As restrictions have begun to ease across Victoria and our campus opens up once again to the community, the School Calendar has quickly come to life again. With each week, another opportunity to welcome families and parents. With School Camps and excursions back on the agenda, our students have been delighted to head out to Camp Iluka (Year 7) and Point Leo Beach (Year 9); the House competitions are again in full swing, with Lawrence House taking first place in the House Swimming last week and also a well-earned victory yesterday in House Athletics. This is just a small taste of things to come!
It is events such as this which build a community. The all important milestones of which multiple memories are made. As teachers, we like to hope that our students (in many years to come) will recall the ingrained details of their classroom education, such as the vital difference between alliteration and assonance (I am forever the tragic English teacher) or perhaps the ability to recite the precise details and exact order of the periodic table; something I was proficient in circa 1994, perhaps less confident now. However, the reality is that, whilst these things are important and most definitely required, they are not usually the stuff of fond memories. As educators, we know that what will live on beyond the factual recall, will be that starring role in the school production (watch out for exciting information coming soon…) or taking out first place in the relay at House Swimming carnival and beating the Staff team in the final leg.
As we navigate our way through our new normal, we do so in the knowledge that many anxieties and fragilities still exist within our community. After two years of disruption to our well-known routines, we are still learning how simply ‘to be’ around each other. For our very youngest students, they are exploring what it means to play together, to share space and sit side-by-side. For our more senior students, re-visiting the varied social norms of communication and physically working together has been top of the agenda. Even our highly-experienced TKS staff have had to re-adjust to our new working environment and review the schedules and practices associated with life in the classroom and on campus. These things take time and manifest in diverse forms.
In many ways, the experience of the last two years has provided us with a very new perspective, a heightened awareness and appreciation of the things that matter most. Although I think it would be overly optimistic to say that we are post-pandemic, I do believe that we are entering a new era, not just for TKS, but for education in general. What we have experienced and what we have learned cannot be forgotten but can be used to enhance our model of personalised learning. The voices of our students at the centre of this discussion can only seek to widen our understanding of what is required for now and into the future.
So, for now, whilst we cannot guarantee the new sub-variant of Omicron will not reap havoc on our schedule of events or de-rail our plans for Rock Out March (now in April..) we look forward to welcoming you back onto campus and making the most of those moments of connection. Whatever occasion or event prompts your interest, a Year Level Coffee Morning, an Information Evening, or my personal highlight, Rock Out; I look forward to welcoming you back and this time, as more than just a face in a box on a screen.
Principal and Chief Executive